Why it matters: Epic Games currently has a multibillion dollar business thanks largely to the success of Fortnite. Criminals are now starting to cash in on the game's success by purchasing high-value items and V-bucks using stolen credit cards, then selling the account credentials. Some of the purchasers are teens that play the game.
According to an investigative report by the Independent, criminals are laundering money through the wildly popular video game Fortnite. Using a technique called “carding,” crooks will purchase in-game cosmetics and packages of V-bucks with stolen credit card details, then sell them at a discount through social media, eBay, or on the dark web.
Cybersecurity firm Sixgill says there is a thriving black market for discounted Fortnite gear and in-game currency. Part of this illicit economy is due to younger players with less disposable income wanting stuff on the cheap. However, the fact that the game has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of transactions per month makes it a prime target for money laundering schemes.
“Criminals are executing carding fraud and getting money in and out of the Fortnite system with relative impunity,” said Sixgill’s Senior Intelligence Analyst Benjamin Preminger.
Another reason the carders like Fortnite is because Epic does not monitor odd bulk transactions or forbid the selling of items outside the game.
“Threat actors [a malicious person or entity] are scoffing at Epic Games’ weak security measures, saying that the company doesn’t seem to care about players defrauding the system and purchasing discounted V-bucks… This directly touches on the ability of threat actors to launder money through the game.”
Fortnite’s players (including the criminals) moved more than $3 billion worth of transactions through the game last year. How much of this money was from illicit sales is unknown, but Sixgill monitored eBay for 60 days and found that over $250,000 in Fortnite items or accounts were sold through the auction site.
The Independent found one seller on the dark web who claimed to be rich and just wanted to give back to the dark web community by “giving away” V-bucks at steep discounts. Of course, there is no way of knowing how the individual acquired these V-bucks, and since he only accepts bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, his transactions are almost impossible for law enforcement to track.
To make matters worse, Epic has no measures in place to discover or report suspicious transactions.
“Epic Games doesn’t seem to clamp down in any serious way on criminal activity surrounding Fortnite, money laundering or otherwise,” said Preminger. “While completely stopping such criminal activity is extremely difficult, several steps could be taken to mitigate the phenomenon, including monitoring the transfer of high-value goods in the game, identifying players with large stockpiles of V-bucks, and sharing data with relevant law enforcement agencies.”
Epic Games was unavailable for comment on tis report.